Tag: intelligence

You Go, Girl—Female Students Who Bike or Walk Do Better on Tests

By Jennifer Welsh | December 20, 2010 11:48 am

bike-girlOne more reason to dust off that bike: in a study of Spanish high schoolers, girls who biked to class scored better on school tests than those who commuted in a car or bus.

About 65 percent of the teens participating in the study (1,700) said they rode a bike or walked to school. When the researchers looked at the girls’ performance on tests of cognitive ability, they saw that active commuters averaged 53 points, about 4 points higher than girls who came by motor vehicle. And the longer their commute, the better the correlation, explains Reuters:

Girls whose active commute lasted longer than 15 minutes did better on the tests than girls who walked or biked for less than 15 minutes on their way to school—a sign the relationship between active commutes and test performance is real, [lead researcher Francois] Trudeau said. Indeed, the effect persisted even after the researchers accounted for age, body weight, social and economic status, and activities outside school.

Researchers think this might be because these active commuters are getting more exercise, though it is also possible that those who have active commutes are more alert by the time they start school, which could affect how well they learn when they do make it to school, the researchers told Reuters:

Trudeau added that walking or biking to school often takes longer than a car or bus ride, which may provide time to reflect and mentally prepare for the day, giving them an edge. “It may be a good period to start thinking about the school day.”

The authors also couldn’t rule out the possibility that active commutes and higher test scores were not directly connected, but instead were linked by some other attribute—some personality trait that would both incline girls to bike and make them do better on tests.

For some reason the correlation didn’t hold up in boys. The researchers aren’t sure why this is, but they have some ideas. It is possible that the extra bit of exercise isn’t as important for boys, if boys are generally more active anyway. And the difference could be due to some brain difference between girls and boys, the authors suggest.

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Image: Flickr/herval

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

Take the "Ultimate Intelligence Test" to Find out if You're Ultimately Smart

By Jennifer Welsh | October 28, 2010 5:54 pm

geniusThere are many different kinds of intelligent. Are you book smart? Street smart? Good at school and test-taking smart? Good at schmoozing your way out of deadlines and into jobs smart? Better at writing or math?

One new intelligence test, put online today by New Scientist and the Discovery Channel, claims to be the best test of overall smarts. The test was designed by neuropsychologist Adrian Owen to test 12 different “pillars” of wisdom, and to work every part of your mind.

From Owen’s article about the test for New Scientist:

Like many researchers before us, we began by looking for the smallest number of tests that could cover the broadest range of cognitive skills that are believed to contribute to intelligence, from memory to planning.

But we went one step further. Thanks to recent work with brain scanners, we could make sure that the tests involved as much of the brain as possible – from the outer layers, responsible for higher thought, to deeper-lying structures such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.

As an intrepid blogger, I went ahead and took the test. Some of the exercises resembled classic games like “Memory” (to test paired associates learning, you’re asked to remember what items are hidden where) and “Simon” (to test working memory, you have to remember sequences). Others are more similar to cognitive psychology tests like the Stroop test (which tests focused attention), and there are also some puzzle-solving tests (to test your ability to plan for the future).

The 12 tests are designed to test 12 different aspects of working memory, reasoning, focus, and planning. I did the worst on the “verbal working memory” test, which was reading a string of numbers and typing it in from memory. This actually makes sense, because I’ve always known myself to be a physical learner, and highlight or write down everything I hear that I need to remember. I wonder if there is a correlation there?

You can only take the test once, so make sure to do some mental push-ups first before diving in. Then come back here and tell us what you thought! Also, visit www.cambridgebrainsciences.com to play additional games, to train your brain, and to test your 12 pillars.

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Image: Flickr/B Rosen

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

And the Survey Says: Google Is Not Making You Stupid

By Smriti Rao | February 22, 2010 2:30 pm

is_google_making_us_stupidIn 2008, writer Nicholas Carr worried in The Atlantic that the search engine Google and the easy availability of information on the internet is making our brains lazy–and rendering humans stupid. He wrote that the net was destroying his capacity for concentration and contemplation, adding, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

DISCOVER’s own Carl Zimmer responded by taking the opposite stance, and declaring that Google is making us smarter. He argued that humans are “natural born cyborgs” and the internet is our “giant extended mind.” He wrote that there was “nothing unnatural about relying on the internet—Google and all—for information…. Nor is there anything bad about our brains’ being altered by these new technologies, any more than there is something bad about a monkey’s brain changing as it learns how to play with a rake.”

Now, a new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project agrees with Zimmer; it found that Google is indeed making us smarter by allowing us to make better choices. More than 76 percent of the 895 experts polled said Nicholas Carr was wrong in thinking that Google made us stupid.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: google, intelligence

Do Men Get Struck By Lightning More Than Women?

By Brett Israel | September 22, 2009 12:32 pm

lightning_webMen make up a whopping 82 percent of the 648 people that were killed by lightning in the U.S. from 1995 to 2008. Dudes, what gives?

Apparently, standing outside during a lightning storm with a metal pole in your hand seems like a good idea to a lot of men.

Via Popular Science,  John Jensenius, a lightning safety expert with the National Weather Service, had this to say:

Men are less willing to give up what they’re doing just because of a little inclement weather… and will continue to engage in pastimes that make them vulnerable, such as fishing, camping and golfing. Recreational or sports-related activities are involved in almost half of all lightning-related deaths.

To put an evolutionary spin on the data, Peter Todd, a behavioral psychologist at Indiana University, said he thinks men are hard-wired to exhibit bold (stupid?) behavior to attract a mate—though unless their ideal mate is their golfing or fishing buddy, it’s not so clear how this strategy works. Are women really impressed by tales of some dope slicing into the woods during a lightning storm?

Evolutionarily speaking, you’d think men with a tendency to hang around outside during storms would have been killed off by now—and maybe that helps explain why only 648 people were killed by lightning over the past 13 years.

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Image: flickr / Axel Rouvin

Wanna Be Smarter? Read A Book That Doesn’t Make Sense

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 16, 2009 12:55 pm

KafkaPlaying brain games aren’t the only way a person can get smarter these days. It turns out reading Kafka can also pump up your brain muscles.

In a recent study, University of British Columbia researchers asked volunteers to read a shortened version of Kafka’s nonsensical story, The Country Doctor. Another group of participants read a version that had been rewritten so the events made more sense. After reading the story, the volunteers took a grammar test that asked them to identify the structure of letter strings in the text—and those who read the first story scored higher.

The scientists think their results show that when a person is exposed to unusual circumstances, he or she is motivated to learn new patterns. Science Daily reports:

According to research by psychologists at UC Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia, exposure to the surrealism in, say, Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” or Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” enhances the cognitive mechanisms that oversee implicit learning functions… .

“The idea is that when you’re exposed to a meaning threat—something that fundamentally does not make sense—your brain is going to respond by looking for some other kind of structure within your environment,” said Travis Proulx, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB and co-author of the article. “And, it turns out, that structure can be completely unrelated to the meaning threat.”

Granted, even if you run out and rad Kafka, since you’re reading this online, perhaps you should be scared that Google is countering the effects by making us all stupid.

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Image: flickr/ Jim Greenfield

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: intelligence, Kafka

Study: Talking to Hot Women Makes Men Lose Brain Function

By Melissa Lafsky | September 4, 2009 11:11 am

flirtingBreaking news! Men become less intelligent when they’re trying to impress women they’d like to sleep with! A new study in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology found that “men who spend even a few minutes in the company of an attractive woman perform less well in tests designed to measure brain function” than men who talked to women they didn’t want to, er, mate with.

The Telegraph reports that the study, which consisted of 40 male heterosexual students, proceeded as follows:

Each one performed a standard memory test where they had to observe a stream of letters and say, as fast as possible, if each one was the same as the one before last.

The volunteers then spent seven minutes chatting to male or female members of the research team before repeating the test.

The results showed men were slower and less accurate after trying to impress the women. The more they fancied them, the worse their score.

And how did the other sex fare? When the test was repeated with a group of female volunteers, their memory scores stayed the same regardless of whether they’d chatted with a man or a woman.

The researchers even managed to come up with a somewhat scientific theory for why this occurred:

Researchers who carried out the study…think the reason may be that men use up so much of their brain function or “cognitive resources” trying to impress beautiful women, they have little left for other tasks.

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Image: iStockphoto

All It Takes Is Love: Baby Chimps Given Extra TLC Score Higher Than Human Infants on IQ Tests

By Rachel Cernansky | February 3, 2009 7:08 pm

chimpanzee_mom_and_baby.gifWe kid you not: Orphaned baby chimpanzees cared for by humans in a loving, attentive manner have been found to be more cognitively advanced than some human infants.

Authors of a new study in Developmental Psychobiology compared nine-month-old human babies to nine-month-old chimps who had received daily “mom sessions.” For 20 hours a week, humans would play with 17 of the orphaned infant chimps, helping them to develop motor skills and to “meet new challenges with curiosity instead of distress.”

The chimps were then given an IQ test, the same tool normally used to assess infant human development—and those receiving all the mommy time scored an average of almost 10 points higher than normal humans of the same age. Meanwhile, the 28 chimps raised in “standard care” scored an average of 7.5 points lower.

The chimpanzees who received “responsive care” continued to exhibit strong cognitive and emotional development throughout their youth. Those who received standard or institutional care, however—in which only physical needs were met, with no social or emotional care from human surrogate mothers—were less likely to become well-adjusted adults.

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